Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Acupuncture not helpful for hot flashes

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 7, 2009

Treatment doesn’t provide relief for menopausal symptoms, review finds

HONG KONG – Acupuncture may not help relieve hot flushes in women undergoing menopause, a review of past studies involving the practice has shown.

In a paper published in the journal Climacteric, researchers in South Korea and Britain said they trawled though medical literature exploring the efficacy of acupuncture in relieving hot flushes but evidence was scarce.

“Our findings provide no convincing evidence that acupuncture is beneficial for women suffering from menopausal hot flushes,” they wrote.

The researchers trawled through 106 papers in total, and narrowed down to six the ones they considered most relevant to the study. The six tested the effects of real acupuncture against the effects of sham acupuncture

Only one reported positive effects of acupuncture on the frequency and severity of hot flushes after four weeks of follow-up, while the other five showed no such effects.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “MSNBC”

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Your Friday Dose of Woo: The Worldwide Wanker of Woo

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on April 3, 2009

Let me say right up front that I’m not entirely sure that the victim–I mean target; no, I mean subject–of this week’s little excursion into the deepest darkest depths of woo is not a parody. That’s the beauty of it. I’ve never heard of it before, but a little Googling brought me evidence that it may not be a parody, that the guy purveying it may actually believe it. I’ll leave you to judge for yourself, or, if you’ve heard of this guy before, to chime in and let me know the deal. I’ll also point out that parts of this website are not entirely safe for work. Actually, a couple of the pages are not safe for work at all. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on directly linking to any those pages, but you could hit a link while exploring the site and accidentally find yourself looking at something you really don’t want to. Trust me on this.

And what woo it is!

IntentEnergyMainGraphic.jpg

Have any of you ever heard of Happeh Theory? You haven’t? Well, you have now! Suffice it to say that Happeh Theory has an odd obsession. More about that later. First, it starts out a lot like any other run-of-the-mill woo site, only with cheesier graphics. Specifically, Happeh Theory seems to think that we all have “energy bodies” that are in essence duplicates of our own body:

Treating the energy body of a human being as an exact duplicate of the physical body can be especially helpful in discussing the movement of the energy body from it’s proper location and orientation on the physical body.The reason why knowing if the energy body has moved away from it’s proper location and orientation on the physical body is important, is that any movement of the energy body away from it’s proper orientation or location is usually associated with the development of some type of health problem, and because the exact way in which the energy body has moved, will provide insight into how the physical body of the individual moves.

And, of course, there is “intent”:

It is the nature of the energy of the human body, that the light reflected by the body usually corresponds to the energy level of that region of the body. A bright and well lit part of the body would usually be an area of the body that was filled with energy, or had a high energy level. A dark part of the face would usually be an area of the body that had a low energy level.A phrase that is used to name the low energy areas of a person’s face, is the phrase “black in the face”. Calling the low energy areas of the face “black” simplifies talking about the subject.

The usage of the phrase “black in the face”, would be by describing the amount of black an individual’s face had in it.

An individual whose face was mostly well lit, would be an individual who had very little black in the face. Since black in the face corresponds to low energy, a person who had very little black in the face would be a relatively healthy person, because their face was filled with energy.

Everyday language supports that claim. A healthy or happy person can be described as “beaming”, which is a word associated with bright lighting.

He’s convinced me! If I just shine lights all over my body, then I, too, can be filled with energy all over. I wonder. Happeh Theory seems to imply that if I were to shine light on my head, that would fill it with energy, boosting its level and (hopefully) increasing my intelligence beyond its already stratospheric level to the level of Super Genius, just like Vox Day likes to tell us he is.

So far, this is the standard sort of “energy” woo that is hard to escape on the web and, sadly, increasingly hard to escape in some of the formerly greatest academic medical centers in our nation, given how many of them have embraced “energy healing” modalities like reiki and therapeutic touch. Be that as it may, there is one aspect of this woo that distinguishes it from the usual run-of-the-mill variety. Suffice it to say that Happeh Theory has a rather strange obsession. While Robert O. Young may be obsessed with pH and “acid,” Hulda Clark with liver flukes, and autism quacks with mercury, but Happeh Theory has found a new scourge, a new horrible cause of so many of the ills that plague modern humans.

Masturbation:

According to Happeh Theory, masturbation will cause a person to become crippled and blind in one eye, as well as causing many other physical health problems. Excessive masturbation will also lead to the development of gay tendencies, as well as other alterations to the personality or mentality of a person.The most common question that is asked in response to the claim that masturbation makes the human body blind and crippled, is “How does masturbation make the human body blind and crippled?”. Or to phrase that question more accurately “What does masturbation do to the human body, that causes it to become blind and crippled?”

Masturbation causes the human body to tighten up or become tense. That tightness or tension impairs the ability of the limbs to move properly, and impairs the ability of the eyes to see properly.

That’s right. That evil scourge of masturbation can result in shortening of the yin part of the right arm, leading to horrific things, such as faces like this.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE”

Buyer Beware the Brassage? The Naked Truth About ‘Healthy’ Underwear

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 2, 2009

Attention women: What if you could detoxify your breasts and get rid of cellulite by wearing a special bra and panties? Some clothing manufacturers are suggesting that their products can do just that.

The Brassage, billed as a revolutionary “wellness bra,” retails for as much as $59. It’s produced by Intimate Health, an apparel company run by Christina Erteszek, the daughter of famous lingerie designer Olga.

“I have seen a lot of breasts in my life, more than any man could dream of,” said Erteszek, who claimed to be wearing a Brassage during her interview with ABC News.

Regular bras could be hazardous to your health, she says, because they trap toxins in the breasts. Her Brassage, however, has “massaging” bumps sewn into the sides that “stimulate lymphatic flow,” flushing those toxins away.

Asked if she is implying the Brassage helps prevent breast disease, Erteszek said, “Yes. Of course.” But, she went on, “I say, ‘help to prevent.’ I’m making no medical claims that it does prevent.”

Unsupported Claims

There’s no evidence the Brassage helps prevent anything. And there’s no scientific data to support Erteszek’s statements, according to breast cancer researcher Dr. Susan Love, clinical professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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“We really have no data that toxins are accumulating in the breast tissue every day, and that they are not being allowed to drain out because of people wearing bras,” Love said.

The Brassage Web site says the Brassage is “doctor designed” and patented. But the inventor of the “micro-massaging” bumps in the Brassage is not a medical doctor; he’s a chiropractor.

Underwear That Prevents Cellulite?

Solidea, the catalog company that carries the Brassage, also sells Micro-Massage Anti-Cellulite panties, tights and tummy bands. The Brooklyn, N.Y., company imports the support hose from Italy.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “ABC NEWS”

Dr. Emoto’s water woo metastasizes

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on March 30, 2009

Indiana Jones had a saying: “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” This line was most famously delivered in Raiders of the Lost Ark after he and his friend Sallah had opened the Well of Souls and were staring down into it. Sallah noticed that the ground appeared to be moving within; so Indy shined a light down the entrance, only to see thousands of snakes waiting for him at the bottom.

Sallah then drily observed, “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”

As we knew from earlier in the movie, Indiana Jones hated snakes and was afraid of them; so it was only natural that later in the movie he would encounter a floor literally writhing with thousands of them. So it was when I innocently picked up the latest issue of TIME Magazine and started perusing it yesterday. What to my fearfully wondering eyes should appear but an article entitled Mind over Chocolate. Because I like chocolate, I was curious and began reading:

Move over, organic, fair trade and free range–the latest in enlightened edibles is here: food with “embedded” positive intentions. While the idea isn’t new–cultures like the Navajo have been doing it for centuries–for-profit companies in the U.S. and Canada are catching on, infusing products with good vibes through meditation, prayer and even music.

My reaction was much like Indy’s: “Intent. Why’d it have to be intent?”

To which my imaginary companion replied, “Emoto. Very woo-ey. You go first.”

So I will, because as much as the whole concept of “intent” in various “alternative medicine” and other woo irritates the crap out of me, it also holds a bizarre fascination as well.

Before I go on to deal with these products, let’s take a trip back down memory lane to nearly two and a half years ago. That’s when I first encountered the infamous Dr. Emoto and his amazing water woo. Naturally, being the…pioneer that he is, a lot of this business of “imbuing” water and food with happy “intent” can trace back to him, at least as a business plan, given his H20m water. The long story is in the link immediately preceding this; the short story is that Dr. Emoto believes that water can somehow be altered by “vibrations” sent from someone focusing his or her intent upon it and that those vibrations leave behind residue of that intent that can then be imparted to the people who consume H20m. As “evidence” for this, Dr. Emoto cites “studies” (I’m using the term very loosely here, as you might imagine) in which he claims to be able to differentiate different ice crystals on the basis of whether “good” or “bad” intent had been directed at them. Being of an entrepreneurial bent, Dr. Emoto decided to scale up his focusing of intent on water into an industrial process, infusing the water with happy thoughts thusly:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE”

Rhinos and tigers and bears. Oh my.

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on March 27, 2009

This is a must read, a great entry from SBM.

No good deed goes unpunished.

The website whatstheharm.net is a depressing recitation of the harm that humans do to themselves and others from participating in various forms of nonsense in the attempt to do good. It my backfire, and instead pain and death result.

I would bet that most practitioners of medical woo are true believers. They do not intend to harm people, and believe they are doing good for their patients. Certainly the consumers of alternative therapies intend to have good benefits from their use of sCAM modalities. Most want to get better, and do not intend to hurt themselves or others.

Unfortunately, actions always have unintended consequences. Sometimes the harm is directly to the patient. Sometimes the harm in indirect, with collateral damage to people or the environment. My hospital system has an extensive recycling program to handle the huge amounts of waste generated by the need to insure that all manner of materials are sterile. Patients in isolation consume large amounts of paper and plastic to keep infection confined. My hospitals actively look for ways to decrease their environmental impact and carbon footprint and still deliver high quality medical care. Legacy Health System, where I work, is an award winning leader recycling medical waste, which is a lot more difficult to dispose of than the pop cans and paper bags in your house. Hopefully the trash in your house is not covered with pus, blood and other potentially hazardous medical waste. We try to be good global citizens.

I wonder if some branches of the alternative medical industrial complex are so environmentally conscious.

Natural products are at the greatest risk for being adversely affected by a demand for their use. If millions of people want a natural product that has limited supply, soon that product will be exhausted and the product extinct. Adverse effects from alternative therapies can come in many forms, and the alternative practice with the greatest adverse impact on the environment is probably traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). A billion or more people wanting a traditional herbal or animal product is going to have a detrimental effect on the herb or animal being consumed. There are numerous examples of the adverse effects on the environment from traditional Chinese medicine.

For years the Rhinoceros was hunted not for food or sport, but for the horn. There is a form of magical thinking that derives function from the structure of a natural product like a rhino horn. It looks like a penis. I guess. I must not have been paying close attention during in my urology rotation. Because it looks like a penis, it must have efficacy on impotence. So the rhino horn was ground up to treat impotence. For centuries it was the Enzyte of the world. But Rhino horn is more than an aphrodisiac. Although the rhino horn is no more than a fingernail with extra calcium and phosphorus, the horn has been used in Chinese medicine to treat damn near anything.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE”

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Lose Weight – With Lasers

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

Listener, Nick,  sent in the following e-mail:

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to lose weight the old fashioned way. Eat less, move more. Today my personal trainer suggested this weight loss clinic that uses some foam wrapping and infrared lasers. My trainer said she’d tried it and it works and gave me the web site. I’m looking over the website and I’m not buying it. But I’m not that good of a skeptic and don’t know why I’m not buying it. I just know, I’m not buying it. Would the skeptics be so kind as to tell me why this doesn’t work? Thanks, and I love the show.

http://www.achievelaser.com/weight-loss.html

Wow. This is one of those websites that just overwhelms you with pseudoscientific technobabble. There is far too much nonsense here to tackle in a single blog, so I am going to focus on two claims – the low level laser therapy (LLLT) and the infrared body wrap.

But first, for a little background, it’s interesting to note that spas have had a tradition for literally hundreds of years of promoting wellness (that is, there own financial wellnes) through pure BS. The basic marketing strategy is to convince people with disposable income and too sedentary a lifestyle to come in, relax, and passively receive exotic treatments that will cure whatever ails them. Spas have often been on the cutting edge of health pseudoscience. Today they incorporate the latest fads in CAM – from aromatherapy to reflexology.

The infrared bodywrap is in the sweet-spot of the spa tradition – and now you can enjoy the same exploitation at home. The basic claim here is that the wrap system contains infrared radiation, which penetrates the skins and (you know the drill) – removes toxins, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery, and melts away fat and cellulite. Right.It promises you will lose weight and inches.

Of course, all such wraps do make you lose weight and inches – by dehydration via sweating. That’s the core trick here. Of course, water loss is not fat loss and in fact is counterproductive. But it is highly profitable.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE ROGUES GALLERY”

Homeopathy — Still Crazy After All These Years

Posted in Skeptic by Skepdude on January 15, 2009

Homeopathy is one of the longest running forms of pseudoscience in the modern world. Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized that it was nonsense back in 1842 when he wrote “Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions.” We long ago gave up the nonsense of trying to balance the four humors by bloodletting and purging, but the homeopathy Energizer Bunny is still marching on. What makes it so indestructible?

One reason is a lack of understanding about what homeopathy really is, even among health care providers. I recently heard about a nurse who thought “homeopathic” just referred to any mild natural herbal remedy. In case any readers are similarly confused, here’s a brief overview. Homeopathy was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. It is based on the now-outdated principle that “like cures like,” and the lower the dose the better in homeopathy. If coffee keeps you awake, highly diluted coffee will put you to sleep. The more dilute the coffee, the better you will sleep.

To figure out what remedy works for what symptoms, you do a “proving” by giving a substance to healthy people and writing down every symptom they have for the next few days (without trying to determine whether the symptom was due to the substance or was just coincidental). You make a remedy by diluting that substance many times and shaking it (succussing) at each step. You look up a patient’s symptoms in a book listing all the different proving results, and you give him the remedy that best matches what ails him.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “SKEPTIC”

More crapy science from Fringe

Posted in Uncategorized by Skepdude on November 2, 2008

I have made my feelings about the FOX show Fringe known already. And, as I previously said I like me some science fiction, so I do watch it for entertainment. Episode 3 rubbed me the wrong way. Why? Because of the following:

-Occam’s Razor! All other things being equal, the simple solution is the best

-And what is that?

-The man is phychic! Theoretically it is quite possible.

**Sigh**

Science on the ‘Fringe’

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Earlier today I wrote an entry on the new Fox show, “Fringe”. I find it entertaining but not very much correct either in its science or portrayal of skeptics. LiveScience has this article about the “science guys” in charge of coming up with the ideas about the “fringe science” being portrayed in the show. Here’s some of what it says:

Sometimes science fact is actually stranger than science fiction.  As the “science guys” behind Fox television’s new scientific thriller, FRINGE, Rob Chiappetta and Glen Whitman, know that better than anyone else.

“For example, in episode three one of the characters was receiving messages in his brain telepathically and the Monday before the show aired, we saw an article on the CNN website that explained how the U.S. Army was developing a helmet that uses brain waves to help soldiers talk to each other

Which is not quite science, which it would need to be in order to be qualified as fringe science. Just because a CNN headline says that the army is trying to develop a helmet that uses brain waves to help soldiers talk to each other, that does not make it science. How many hypotheses don’t pan out? How many R&D projects die out with not an ounce of success?

Whitman and Chiappetta are “media consultants,” not scientists, and while they’ve been advisors on several TV shows, they note their expertise comes from curiosity and researching science journals and the popular press, not formal training. Chiappetta has a law degree from the University of Texas, and Whitman has his PhD in economics from New York University.

Well that explains a lot.

“A lot of times we have a scene where something will happen and we have to figure out how this can be justified scientifically, Whitman said. “So we will come up with three ideas and the writers choose.”

I wonder how do a lawyer and economist come up with plausible scientific explanations of how these fringe ideas can be explained? And then not one, but three scientifically justified hypotheses? Something’s smells fishy!

One of the writers came to the team to tell them about a scientist who was using rat brain cells to control a rat robot via remote control.  While Whitman’s background may have been in economics, mathematics, and statistics, he discovered a strong affinity for neuroscience. “Glen can tell you what part of the brain regulates what function,” said Chiappetta.

This is ridiculous. Are we supposed to be impressed by that? Any old chap can do a little bit of Googling and find the name of the part of the brain that controls some general functions, such as speech, vision etc. That does not make them experts in Neurology, capable of coming up with THREE scientifically plausible explanations. That’s total BS and I must cry fault.

While the ideas on the show may go beyond current science research, these ideas still have to be plausible.  “If it hasn’t happened, it still has to be reasonable,” Chiappetta said. “As long as we give a bit of explanation about the science and show the possibility.”

And the plausibility of such ideas these guys are not qualified to judge.  They don’t give a plausible explanation of how such things are supposed to work, they can’t they’re not experts in all the different fields that the show delves in week in and week out.

My conclusion is that when these guys think of fringe science, what they’re really thinking about is what in the scientific circles is referred to as pseudoscience, you know things like telekinesis and, as portrayed in the first episode, syncing brain waves so a healthy person can talk to a person in a coma, just as they would do over coffee? You decide is that fringe or pseudo science?

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “LIVESCIENCE”

Raise Your Voice

Posted in Edger by Skepdude on October 20, 2008

It takes a lot to get me angry. But if I look for it on the Internet, I can find it. When reading about Lisa McPherson – who died as a result of Scientology – my blood boils and my fists contract. When I read a website that documents “3,254 people killed, 235,558 injured and over $455,070,000 in economic damages” from quack medicine, frauds and snake-oil merchants who are simply there to make a quick buck, I am ready to burst.

I want to address the question of being involved in sceptical circles, in being (a kind of) social critic. Why do it? “Why do you care about these things?”

I don’t care who you are, dear reader.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “EDGER”